André Alexis, lauded by his peers as "a master craftsman" is the winner of this year's Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for his novel Fifteen Dogs, it was announced on Tuesday.
Praised by the jury as "a beautifully written allegory for our times" and "an original and vital work," Fifteen Dogs follows the titular pack of canines after they are liberated from a Toronto veterinary clinic and gifted human consciousness by a pair of Greek gods; Hermes and Apollo are curious whether, if granted intelligence and language, the dogs will lead happier lives than they would have otherwise. Alexis receives $25,000 for winning the prize, one of the country's major literary awards.
This year's jury, comprised of authors Shani Mootoo, Richard Wagamese and Aislinn Hunter, read 127 books submitted by 50 different publishers before selecting a shortlist of five books. The other finalists were Elizabeth Hay for His Whole Life; Pamela Mordecai for Red Jacket; Russell Smith for Confidence; and John Vaillant for The Jaguar's Children. Each author receives $2,500.
Alexis, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, grew up in Ottawa, and now calls Toronto home, is the author of several books and plays including Asylum, Pastoral (which was a finalist for this prize last year) and Childhood, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 1998. Fifteen Dogs is also nominated for this year's Giller Prize, the winner of which will be announced next week.
The Writers' Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, which is awarded to the best short story by an emerging writer published in a Canadian literary journal or magazine, went to Deirdre Dore for The Wise Baby. Dore, who lives in Nakusp, B.C., receives $10,000, while Geist, which originally published the story, receives $2,000.
Additionally, four lifetime achievement awards were announced during Tuesday night's ceremony in Toronto, which was hosted by the Globe and Mail's Elizabeth Renzetti: Jan Thornhill received the $20,000 Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People; Karen Solie was awarded the $25,000 Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize; Annabel Lyon received the $25,000 Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award, which is annually given to an author in mid-career; and Richard Wagamese, praised by the jury as "a vital voice in Canadian letters," received the $20,000 Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life, which goes to a writer who has earned a living mainly through writing.